If you are a small, local business, you are probably wondering how you can get your website displayed in the local search results of Google, Yahoo! and Bing. The answer is SEO!
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the process of optimizing your website so that it can be found on top search engines. There are a lot of components to an SEO strategy, and if you are completely unfamiliar with SEO we recommend reading our article SEO for Beginners as a starting point.
What Is Local SEO and Why Is It Important?
Local SEO is the process of optimizing your website so that it can be found by local customers when they are searching online. For example, if you are searching for a dentist in Austin, Texas, you would probably use the search term “Austin dentist.” The results for the dentists in your area show up at the top of the search results under “Places for dentist near Austin, TX,” which you can see in the image below. These results also show up in the map to the right. How quickly you to move up to the top of the search results will largely depend on how you’ve optimized your website with relevant search terms.
Google provides you with an easy and free way to get your business listed in the results shown above, and I will take you through the process of preparing your website for Google and optimizing your website for the local search engines. First, I’ll cover some of the basics about your website content.
First, you will need a website if you don’t already have one. Today, having a website is just as important as having a phone number. Without one, you are virtually nonexistent. Recent reports show that 86% of people use the Internet to locate local products or services, and then follow up with a phone call or in-store visit. If you do not yet have a website, see our guide on How to Build a Website.
Your SEO Content
Content is the most important element of your website. Without good content, your chances for being found on search engines are limited, and people will not want to stay on your website if they find your content to be boring or irrelevant. Good SEO content includes the right keywords or search terms in these places: written content, title tags, page headings, meta description, meta keywords, etc. For Local SEO, you want to concentrate on “geographic keyword targeting.” This simply means that you should include your location in the search terms you’re using. For example, if you own an accounting business and live in Austin, TX, you’d want to use a term like “Austin accounting services,” instead of simply “accounting services,” in your content.
To find the right keywords for your website, you’ll need to do some keyword research. Keyword research is a method of finding keywords that are related to your business and that drive traffic to your website. A good tool to use for keyword research is the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. This tool will help you decide which keywords are best to market your business. Always make sure the keywords you use on your website have high search volume, as shown in the Google Adwords Keyword Tool.
Google Places for Business
Google Places for Business: This is the first place to start to get your business found in the local search results. Before setting up your account, you can go to Getlisted.org to see if your business is listed on Google, Yahoo!, and other top local search engines. If your business is already listed, you can claim it.
If you already have a Google account, then all you have to do is log in. Otherwise, you will have to create a Google account. Once your Google account is created, you can set up your Google Places account, which will create a place for your business on Google Maps, so that when someone searches for your business using a search term like “Austin dentist,” you’ll show up in the results.
After you set up your listing in Google Places, it will need to be verified. You will be sent a PIN number to verify that your business is a real business. This is typically sent through snail mail, and you’ll get a postcard at the address you entered in Google. Once you verify that you are a real business, your listing will be posted live on the web. Unfortunately, this can take a few weeks.
Setting up your Google Places account is relatively easy, but there are some details you must pay attention to when entering your information, in order to increase your chances of being found at the top of the search results.
5 Important Elements in Google Places
Below are five elements that you should focus on when creating your Google Places account.
1. Address and Phone Number: Make sure your address is consistent every place your business is listed online. You don’t want to have different addresses listed in different places online. Also, make sure that both your address and phone number are consistent across each page of your website. *Note: If you have more than one location, it is best for Local SEO purposes to create a separate page on your website for each location.
2. Category: When choosing your category, make sure you choose the category that most closely fits your type of business and the geographical keywords that you used to optimize your website content. This is important because if you choose a category that does not relate to the geographic keywords you used on your website, then your listing may not show up in the search results. To check that your keywords and category match, you can do a quick search in Google for the category name and see if it pulls up the same results as the results you get when searching with you website’s main keywords.
4. Business Description: This is where you’ll enter a description that includes keywords related to your product/service. For example, if you sell beauty products your description would include keywords associated with beauty salons and products. Try to use your keywords in a way that is natural, and make sure you aren’t jamming keywords into your description in a spam-like way.
5. Content and Media: Content and Media refers to photos and videos, which make your listing more interesting to your customers. If they are able to visualize your business and your products, your customers will be more likely to remember you and want to learn more.
Other Local SEO Strategies
For some businesses, setting up a Google Places account may be enough to get you ranked in your local search results, but for other businesses more SEO strategies may be necessary. Some other strategies that you can use to optimize your website for local search results are:
1. Citations: “Citations” are mentions of your business name and address on other webpages. Citations include mentions in an online yellow pages directory, local chamber of commerce website, or local business association website. There may or may not be a link back to your website from a listed citation. Citations help the search engines confirm that you are who you say you are, and that your contact information is correct. A good resource to locate places where you can get local citations is Whitespark Citation Finder.
2. Yahoo! and Bing for Business: You will need to sign up for a Windows Live Account and follow their process for entering your business in their directory, which is similar to the process for Google Places. You’ll want to pay attention to the same SEO elements as with Google Places.
3. Customer Reviews: Customer reviews help build credibility and trust in your business. There are many ways to go about getting positive customer reviews for your business online so that they will show up when customers search for your business. Yelp is a good place to be reviewed, as well as any other location-specific review websites you use. For more about customer reviews, see our article, Negative Online Reviews: When to Respond and How
Video Tutorial on Local SEO Strategies
If you are feeling overwhelmed about everything you must do to get your business ranked in the local search results, don’t fret. It’s possible to do it all on your own! You don’t necessarily have to spend a lot of money hiring an SEO company to do this for you. There is a lot of good information on the web, as well as low-cost tools that help you through the process of optimizing your website for local search.
‘The Local SEO Formula’ is an excellent resource that I would personally recommend for those of you who want a step-by-step guide on getting your business ranked in the top local search results. The SEO team here at ChooseWhat.com, has reviewed this video and found it to be an excellent resource for guiding you through the Local SEO process.